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Mindanao’s low literacy rating due to decades of conflict, expert says

BONN, Germany — The low enrollment and literacy rate in Mindanao vis-à-vis the rest of the country is just among the many negative effects of decades of conflict and crisis in the region, an international expert on crisis and education said here at the 2012 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum.

In one of the plenary debates focusing on the topic: “The Fight for Knowledge: Opportunities and Risks of Educational Work in Conflict and Crisis Zones,” the problem in Mindanao has been mentioned as part of the need to highlight the problem of education in conflict and crisis zones.

Dr. Ashraf Ghani, chairman of the Institute for State Effectiveness in Kabul, Afghanistan said that the longer the conflict in these areas, the more dissipated human capital is.

He also said that teachers are the least paid in these places.

This confirms the latest Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS) study of the government on the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The 2008 study showed that ARMM has the lowest literacy rates nationwide, with 71.6 percent compared to the national rate of 86.4 percent.

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Aside from the problem in Mindanao, Ghani also mentioned the problems of other conflict and crisis zones around the world such as Turkey, Afghanistan and Cambodia, and how these problems put at risk not only the lives of people in these areas but their education as well.

Ghani urged the media to be very careful with the information and images they provide to people especially those in conflict areas. He said most of the time, people affected by war simply rely on the media for information.

“Media plays a very important role. In areas of conflict, majority of the women listen to radio,” he said.

Another expert said that peace education is extremely important for the media to consider when reporting on conflict zones.

Theary Seng, founding president of the Center for Cambodian Civic Education in Cambodia, said that media practitioners should not contribute or aggravate the problem by disseminating propaganda.

“In conflict zones, we’re trying to change a lifetime of mindsets,” noted Seng.

Ghani said there is often an educational crisis in conflict zones which all stakeholders — government, local and foreign communities and the media must work together to address.

The plenary debates formed part of the 2012 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, a three-day congress with international reach, which aimed to examine the role of the media with their images and messages in a rapidly changing world.

More than 1,500 journalists, bloggers, media practitioners, cultural workers and artists gathered here in this historic city of Bonn to debate and discuss on the media’s role in contributing constructively to cultural diversity, education, reducing poverty, addressing the problem of global migration, sustainable development and the overall goal of making the world a better place to live in.

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Citing a recent study conducted by the University of Hamburg, Deutsche Welle, organizer of the forum, said that while today’s society is overflowing with information that can be accessed anywhere at any time because of the Internet, approximately 850 million people around the world are still illiterate and that most of these people come from “crisis regions and war zones.”

Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcasting company, is tasked to explain Germany’s role as a “cultured European nation with democratic freedoms based on the rule of law and to promote understanding and exchange between cultures and peoples.” It offers television, radio and Internet coverage in 30 languages.

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